Counting the continent’s current A-list footballers, the roster won’t be complete without the mention of Sadio Mane.

He burst onto the scene in 2012, spurring Senegal to a quarter-final finish in the Olympic tournament the same year.

His leap to the limelight coincided with a nation’s search for a football idol –one whom hopes would rest on, dragging them through in good and torrid moments.

Former Liverpool and Rangers man El-Hadji Diouf, despite his controversial nature, provided that in abundance hence Senegal’s march to the 2002 World Cup quarter-final stage, a feat only equaled by Ghana.

In Sadio Mane, Senegalese football fans have their cravings answered. Both share things in common from playing style to career starts -from France to the English Premier League - with Diouf viewed as something of a football demigod. The characters are however worlds apart.

It is seven years since the two-time African Footballer of the Year retired from playing for the Teranga Lions and times have certainly changed. Gone were the days when the West African country’s FA avoided falling out with its key players fearing a backlash.

A rift, say, between the SFF boss and Diouf is enough to earn an FA president the wrath of football fans. Such was the influence of player power that a presidential football candidate needed the backing of the triumvirate of Diouf, Kalilou Fadiga and Aliou Cisse to be considered a serious contender.

At the height of his powers, Diouf went to the extent of claiming the FA feared him and did not hesitate to shun the federation’s summon to appear before its disciplinary committee.

Feeling cornered, the federation, in a desperate bid to show it was in charge, took the bold decision to ban the then 31-year-old in 2011. That suspension was soon rescinded in time before start of the following year’s Nations Cup qualifiers.

“I'm not disappointed. I've played so many good games in my life. I don't want to be involved because I can't work with the federation."

“After this game, they're (FSF) going to go. They have to go and if they don't go I don't want to play for the national team,” El Hadji said, weeks before a new leadership was ushered in at the SFF.

The dynamics have now changed with players influence limited to only the perimeters of a football venue. Critics in the game have grown, beginning with players’ very own circle of bosoms. Sporting the jersey of one of the world’s very best European clubs and banging in goals week after week after week is no longer a guarantor of success in the game. The national team, above all competitions, matters to the finer details.

The 26-year-old has been doing it on several occasions rising to the billing aided by his galaxy of star teammates in the national team.

However, in the era we now live, every game is crucial. Missed opportunities are considered little close to unacceptable coalesced with the task of meeting up the constant expectations of supporters.

Sadio Mane came to know of this the hard way. There has long been the never-seems-to-be fading debate amongst fans that he gives his all at Anfield and displays a quarter of it when on national team duty.

sadio-mane2The Southampton erstwhile winger had each time opted not to address the allegations when posed the question. But the tale keeps resurfacing at the Teranga Lions’ every weak display or defeat. He’d often dismissed this –at least in public view – but appeared hurt inside and the heckling that followed in the aftermath of Senegal’s 1-0 win over Equatorial Guinea left him with no option but pour out his grief. The wide-man clamors for the sort of protection Egypt grants to Mohamed Salah from Senegalese.

The sight of a national team captain in sheer anguish speaks volumes. The attacker cut a forlorn figure last weekend hiding is faced in his jersey profusely crying as teammates tried consoling him.

Many players, faced with a similar occurrence, had gone on to call time on their international careers though it’s unclear whether the striker will walk that path as no genuine ardent football lover anticipates for such.

Meanwhile, soccer followers are divided over the incident with the majority arguing the boos were uncalled for, not after qualification to the 2019 Cameroon finals was already assured.

“Sadio is a competitor, he always wants to do big performance (...) It's up to the team to help him,” gaffer Aliou Cisse said in defense of the player.

Sadio’s brother took to his Instagram account to make emotional remarks about the incident.

“It is rare to see a country dislike a star of his country like you [Sadio Mane] do,” he began.

“Thousands of Egypt fans will support Salah, while Senegal fans will never support Kalidou Koulibaly or Sadio Mane, who is competing with Salah for the Golden Ball."

“He [Mane] will continue to fight for you, continue to sacrifice himself and continue to give the maximum for Senegal and love and respect the national flag. One day you will realize, but it might be too late.”

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